Lynne Mc and her husband are in the process of building a timber-frame home in Colorado—elevation 7500 ft.—and have run into a snag on what kind of exterior wall and roof assembly would be best.
The timber frame manufacturer suggests that the exterior of the house be wrapped in structural insulated panels (SIPs), which are assemblies that include interior and exterior surfaces, plus a layer of insulating foam in the middle. Building conventionally framed walls around a timber frame is inherently more costly, the manufacturer argues, so why not pay a small additional upcharge and get SIPs?
“Our builder recommends the exact opposite,” Lynne writes in this recent Q&A post. “He would prefer to build 2×6 framed walls with blown-in cellulose insulation and use a SIP ‘hot-roof’ system. He feels the climate and energy costs don’t justify the expense of SIP walls, nor any other form of advanced energy design or exterior foam.”
One wrinkle is how the roof overhangs will be handled. One option is to extend interior beams to the outside to support their weight, requiring added effort for insulating and sealing, Lynne says. Or, timbers could be terminated at the wall line with exterior brackets added to support the roof overhangs. With a SIP roof, she adds, this complication disappears because the panels are self-supporting. The SIP roof, however, is more expensive, and eats up money that Lynne and her husband were hoping to use for upgraded windows.
“We are very anxious to hear the recommendations of the GBA community and look forward to your feedback,” Lynne says. “Which of the options above would you recommend, or is there a better alternative? Although we are committed to being energy-efficient, we are limited by budget, and worried about future disasters caused by inexperienced workers, but…